York GPs have suffered death threats and regularly face a tirade of foul-mouthed verbal abuse.
Now one senior doctor has said: “I can’t stay quiet any longer” – and appealed for the public’s help.
Dr Abbie Brooks, of the city’s of the Priory Medical Group, has shared some of the abuse directed at receptionists and health care workers in the partnership.
- “Go kill yourself”.
- “F*** you”.
- “Can’t you just f***ing do it?”.
- “If they want to f*** my life up, I’ll f*** theirs up”.
- “If they don’t sort this, I’ll have someone waiting to grab them on the way to their cars”.
- “If I die it’s your fault”.
- “If you do not give me a [nurse appointment], you are a murderer”.
It has led Dr Brooks to write directly to patients as well as pen an open letter on the Priory Medical Group website.
“I have wanted to write about the feeling of discontent within the NHS, and general practice in particular, for some time but have struggled to know how to untangle my thoughts,” she writes.
“However, recent direct death threats received by our GPs within the last few weeks has made me realise that I can’t stay quiet on the matter any longer.
“As a result of this abuse, many of our team have reported worsening mental health.”
Usually GP teams receive good patient feedback, Dr Brooks says. “However, over the last 12-18 months this has changed, and it is now normal to hear a disgruntled patient raising their voice or swearing at our receptionists.
“Locally, a GP practice has been set alight. Further afield practices have had their buildings vandalised or covered in graffiti – it is frightening.”
She realises that people are frustrated by delays in care.
“We are too. We are working under the constraints of a severely underfunded system, but still helping hundreds of patients every day.
“We want to offer quick urgent care access, continuity of care and timely follow ups to all but the staffing levels and high demand for appointments means this is impossible.”
But if staff continue to feel threatened and stressed at work, they will leave – exacerbating the problem.
Dr Brooks added: “The practice is doing what we can to protect our staff; quickly removing patients from our list who have threatened our staff and involving the police when we receive death threats or experience physical attacks.
“We are training staff on conflict resolution and trying to improve our pathways and services to reduce frustration amongst our patients.”
And she has this message for all: “GP staff in York want to do the best for their patients, we are talking to each other, we are learning, collaborating, and sharing.
“Please be patient with all our staff members, they really do want to do the best they can without the fear of abuse. Thank you.”